Land for what eventually became the Temecula Public Cemetery was donated by widow, Mercedes Pujol, who came from Spain in 1884, to settle the estate of her late husband Domingo Pujol. She sold much of her property, but with philanthropic foresight, she deeded land for a cemetery.
The land was a pioneer cemetery, maintained by families of the interred, until 1929, when Public Cemetery Districts were formed in California to provide lower cost burial to Temecula tax paying residents. Alex Escallier and James Freeman were two of the three men who were responsible for the new cemetery district. Frank Salas was hired as a groundskeeper. Frank, who was 73 at the time, dug all the 6-foot graves with a hand shovel. The graves at that time sold for $200.00 along with a $75.00 charge for opening and closing of the grave.
Annie Santa Maria served as a trustee for fifty years, the longest term of anyone's service. In 1968, while Annie was president of the cemetery board, the trustees put a moratorium on the purchase of no more than two graves per family, because cemetery space was limited they were trying to extend the life of the cemetery while looking to purchase new property.
A parcel of land east of the original donated section was purchased by the trustees in 1987, opening section 2. The first burial in section 2 happened in 1993. Section 3, adjacent to St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church opened in 2000, and section 4 is our dual depth graves and opened in 2001.
A hexagon shaped columbarium of mahogany colored granite with a capacity to house 192 cremated remains was erected in 2001, followed by our second Columbarium wall that holds double and single interments.
The newest additions to the cemetery are Private Family Estates, in ground cremation burials with upright markers a cenotaph for the names of loved ones possibly scattered or interred elsewhere and our ossuary capable of holding up to 400 comingled cremated remains at a lower cost to the family.
The Temecula Public Cemetery District strives to perpetuate Mercedes Pujol's vision to give residents of Temecula a beautiful memorial park for the final resting place for generations to come.
The oldest grave is that of Lovica Welty, she was the daughter of Richard and Mary Welty, who owned the Welty Hotel and the Welty General Mercantile Store. The headstone for Lovica's short life of sixteen years shows the dates 1873-1889.
A headstone that attracts attention simply reads, "LADY AND BABY". No one seems to know who they were or the story behind the epithet.
In a cemetery this old, it is not uncommon to have several unmarked graves. Some are unmarked because of the expense of a headstone, others because the deceased didn't have family to provide one, and others may have had wooden crosses that deteriorated over time.
There are several unmarked graves in the older section. Although the cemetery always had an overseer, record keeping was not recorded as accurately as it is today. Therefore several of the graves located on the mapping system will be marked "unk", for "unknown". Any information a family member provides us is greatly appreciated and helps in the completion of the mapping.
Pioneers Buried in Temecula Cemetery
Mahlon Vail, who managed the nearly 90-thousand-acre Vail Ranch is buried near Eli Barnett who promoted the building of the First National Bank of Temecula in 1914. The Ludys, Cobbs and Culvers ranched on the same land, prior to the Vails.
Alex and Pete Escallier, shareholders in Eli Barnett's bank venture, are buried in the cemetery. The Escallier family has the most graves – a total of 21 - including one marked "SIX GUN", a nickname that stood the test of time.
Other historical families represented in the cemetery include Gonzalez, Burnham, Ludy, Friedemann, Swanguen, Magee, Machado, Kolb, Nicolas, Servel, Freeman, Hicks, Roripaugh, Mc Sweeney, Fernald and Tobin.
A vast amount of the upright granite headstones within the cemetery were mined in the Temecula hills west of Highway 15 known as the DeLuz. During Alex Escallier's time as a cemetery board member, they adopted a resolution to stop placement of upright markers, thus limiting the need of additional groundskeepers.
For more Temecula history pick up the book, "Images of America Temecula"
Written by Loretta Barnett, Rebecca Farnbach and the Vail Ranch Restoration Association
Temecula Public Cemetery District
41911 C Street Temecula, CA 92592
Hours: M-F 7am to 3:30pm